Is Your Emergency Exit Signage Up To Code?

Having proper emergency exit signage is crucial in case of emergency. Here's what you need to know to ensure your emergency exit signs are up to code.

Are you moving into a new building, or building the first brick and mortar location for your business? Is so, there are a few dozen boatloads of compliance laws you’ll need to meet. We’ll take a bit of that load off your shoulders for you with explaining what you need, and where to reference for official needs, for your exit signage. These compliance codes are all available at the source from OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

So, what are the precise requirements for exit signs and where they need to be? To begin:

“General.” In every building or structure exits shall be so arranged and maintained as to provide free and unobstructed egress from all parts of the building or structure at all times when it is occupied. No lock or fastening to prevent free escape from the inside of any building shall be installed except in mental, penal, or corrective institutions where supervisory personnel is continually on duty and effective provisions are made to remove occupants in case of fire or other emergency (UNITED STATES, 1993).”

In most cases, you’ll need to have your exit signs “readily visible,” or the access to these signs readily visible, in other words having signage that directs you to the exit. Lastly, the “means of egress shall be continually maintained free of all obstructions or impediments to full instant use in the case of fire or other emergency (UNITED STATES, 1993).” So, make it easy to leave, even if you’re in the middle of painting the hall of your new office.

Are There Variations or Options in Signage?

Yes, but only to an extent. There is a precise size and spacing required to be in compliance with OSHA with any exit signage, that is:

Exit signs, when required, shall be lettered in legible red letters, not less than 6 inches high, on a white field and the principal stroke of the letters shall be at least three-fourths inch in width (UNITED STATES 2, 2006).

Signage Illumination Requirements

Now you have your signs picked out and installed, or are just about there. What’s left? Illumination requirements.

For this, there’s a simple ‘yes and no’ checklist to make sure you are in compliance with the NFPA Life Safety Code (101).

  1. Exit routes, including stairs, aisles, corridors and ramps must have emergency lighting.
  2. When servicing the organization’s lighting system, there must be a means for keeping illumination uninterrupted.
  3. Emergency lighting must last for at least 1 ½ hours after the power failure.
  4. Emergency lighting must emit 1 foot candle of light at any point in the building and 0.1 foot candle of light along the emergency exit path at floor level.
  5. At the end of the emergency illumination period (1 ½ hours), it is permissible for illumination to fade to 0.6 foot candle of light at any point in the building and .06 foot candle of light along the emergency path of exit at the floor level.
  6. Maximum to minimum illumination uniformity cannot exceed a ratio of 40 to 1.
  7. Emergency lighting must be provided automatically in the event of a power failure.
  8. Exits must be marked with approved signs that are visible all the way along the evacuation path.
  9. The word EXIT must have letters that are at least 6 inches high and ¾ inch wide.
  10. Exit signs must be illuminated by a reliable light source-one that will stay lit when electricity fails.

If you can say that you are in compliance with each of these statutes, you’re good to go.

For your reference, the source this checklist is drawn up from is available from OSHA’s website.

What Next?

Find the lighting that fits your needs and meets with the compliance codes above. Feel free to give us a call to discuss what may work best for your business.


UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. (June 30, 1993). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR 2. (2006, January 13). Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

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